Social Media and Museums – A Report from Ingrid in Montreal

Blogging and using social networking sites is a big subject at the Museums and the Web 2008 conference in Montreal.MW08 conference, Montreal

Almost all of the (500?) museums represented here have either blogs, Facebook or Flickr sites, or all three. They all think they are worth having, and most of the people here (web interested) are very pro them. There are no directors, curators, or exhibitions people here. There are website people, IT people, multimedia, marketing, educators, libraries and archives people.

The reservations they have about social media are not ideological, but practical. And they happen to be problems that we, Dulwich OnView, don’t have.

Why do museums have blogs and social networking sites?

Museums can no longer ignore the community. They are no longer just a repository of artifacts. They should serve the community.

So they need to be seen to engage with the public, and social media is an excellent tool for this. Social media

  • Encourages public/visitors to participate and contribute
  • Listens to the public and responds
  • Seeks opinions, ideas and feedback
  • Provides opportunities to engage with your peers
  • Provides opportunity to share experiences
  • Creates a climate of openness and trust

How do blogs differ from the museum’s website?

  • some of the Dulwich OnView team

    some of the Dulwich OnView team

    Personal because they consist of user generated content .

  • Conversational, not institution speak
  • Invite comments and dialogue and discussion
  • Readers join a community
  • Lots of links – to other blogs, similar interest groups etc
  • Websites are visited, blogs are used and build communities.
  • Websites host information, social media sites are colonised.
  • Websites are a single voice that speaks to many, social media – many speak to many

Blogs can complement the Museum’s website

  • They add depth and richness to museums’ descriptions by providing contextual information
  • Provide a new angle
  • Opportunity to get to know the experts – if they blog
  • Opportunity to engage with experts

Social networking sites use existing online communities, blogs build their own.


  • Opposition from management Why?
  1. Using social media is all about releasing control
  2. Knowledge not only in the hands of the curators. (many examples of the public contributing additional and hitherto unknown information about a museum object)
  3. Authority v. voice
  • Drain on resources, human and financial
  • Difficulty in finding contributors within the museum
  • Need more employees to run the sites? Museums and the Web conference, Montreal 2008

Why is Dulwich OnView different?

  • We are community driven, not museum driven
  • Created by the community for the community and DPG is part of this
  • It’s more about DPG within the community than DPG itself
  • We attract a blogging community so have a wide variety of voices
  • Require no financial resources because we are all volunteers
  • Not our job, so we contribute because we are passionate about the Gallery/community
  • No Gallery rules, branding, not a slick promotion tool
  • So we are more trusted and believable

Read Brian Kelly’s blog on the subject.
The UK Web Focus blog is written by Brian Kelly, UKOLN. UKOLN is a national centre of expertise in digital information management, based at the University of Bath.

About this article


About Ingrid

Co-Editor and ex-Chair of the Friends Committee. I’m a teacher. I’ve worked in the education department of Dulwich Picture Gallery for 14 years, guiding, lecturing and teaching anyone from 7 years old to degree level. I have run a number of education projects (in a remand home, a prison, a local primary school) and am now the e-learning project developer. I commission articles rather than write them and am mainly in charge of the Gallery related articles.
Other articles by


  1. Ingrid – great post, and a really good summing up. Thank you.


  2. Ian Cantara 27 Apr 2009

    Such a useful blog wow !!!!

    • ingrid 27 Apr 2009

      Thanks Ian. A community, blogging voluntarily for a museum and so promoting it to different audiences, is unusual, probably unique.

  3. Nice to see this a year after MW2008 and sorry to miss mW2009. I hope all is well with Dulwich OnView. See also link from:

  4. Keep up the good work with your blog!

  5. i love your blog,really nice

  6. I don’t comment on blog as usual, but this is a great site, I’ts very helpful for me, thank you.


Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *